Modern Sculpture, Primitive Roots

By Andreae, Christopher | The Christian Science Monitor, June 8, 1992 | Go to article overview

Modern Sculpture, Primitive Roots


Andreae, Christopher, The Christian Science Monitor


THEY were born within a very few years of each other.

The first, Leon Underwood, in Shepherd's Bush, London, at the end of 1890.

The second, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, just outside Orleans, France, 1891.

The third, Henry Moore, in the Yorkshire town of Castleford, 1898.

Their careers could scarcely have taken more different routes. Yet all three were sculptors who worked in England, and who made outstanding contributions to what amounts to an English naissance (rather than a renaissance) in sculpture in the 20th century. They had this in common: a determination to instill sculpture with a vitality and power based on primitivism; a recognition that sculpture had in the previous centuries been increasingly stifled and emasculated by its academic devotion to the Hellenistic ideal. When Moore talked of the need to take Greek spectacles from the eyes of modern sculptors, he was far from being a lone voice. He was part of a change, but not a full-scale movement. Nevertheless, what Gaudier, Underwood, and Moore had in common did not mean that the way in which they made their separate marks on "the story of art" wasn't as individual as it could be.

There has been no doubt in the art world's mind which sculptor is the "greatest." Henry Moore's sculpture, produced in an unstoppable stream of creativity, has encircled the globe from Italy to Mexico, from New York to Athens, from Tokyo back to Yorkshire - commissioned, exhibited, admired, written about. His was an astonishing career of persistent imaginativeness and ambition, his art full of complex challenges to convention, his imagination as strange, disturbing, and experimental as his personal demeanor was matter-of-fact and uncomplicated.

In his early days, Moore's work had prompted outrage from the art establishment and simple incomprehension and ridicule from the man in the street. Later he was thought of as "great."

He made no concessions to popular taste. Even if some of his works are more sympathetic than others - those for instance on such accessibly identifiable themes as mother and child or strong landscape forms - there is often a tension between the tender and the aggressive, between the animal and the human in his works, which seems to have no connection at all with the ordinary Yorkshire chap who conceived it.

But if Moore is set in context as a 20th-century artist - set for example against Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, or Salvador Dali on the one hand, or such pure Abstractionists as Piet Mondrian or Naum Gabo on the other - he can be seen as an integrator rather than an instigator. Synthesis looks to be his achievement - the ability to bring into one work disparate elements so that they balance rather than explode.

And if Moore is compared with Gaudier-Brzeska and Underwood, who by his own admission as well as by the evidence of actual sculptures had an effect on his primary development in the 1920s, then it is possible to define with more sensitivity the character and historical place of Moore's art.

The art world sees both the artists as lesser figures - Gaudier because of his career, which had the energy of a box of fireworks, was startlingly brief. He was killed in battle, in the French lines, in 1915. It has been pointed out that if Moore had lost his life at the age Gaudier did, there would have been virtually no work to hint what he might have become. Gaudier's energy was not just prodigious, it was the very essence of his art. The cut-short promise of his oeuvre - which consists of a comparatively few sculptures and a host of drawings - is particularly tantalizing. His art was an extraordinary mixture of mature certainty and youthful indecisiveness.

Gaudier threw himself vigorously into an espousal of the "Vorticist" campaign for modernism, recognizing the machine is a symbol of the new century. This meant a dichotomy in his work: on one side a fluent naturalism, on the other a cubistic geometry of planes.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Modern Sculpture, Primitive Roots
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.